Wednesday 22 June 2011

End of the Affair

Dear Friends
I had been hoping to give you some good news about the water filtration system being installed at Fukushima Daiichi but it's still not working. There are 110,000 tons of contaminated water in the various turbine halls, increasing by 500 tons per day, and unless this system gets going contaminated water will overflow and will  have to be dumped in the sea again. Five days to overflow is the current estimate but with the Tohoku region officially in the rainy season as of yesterday, and no covers on the reactors, it's a race against time.

The system is an international effort. First any oil is removed in a Japanese machine (Toshiba), then the caesium is removed in an American apparatus (this is the one that's been having trouble), then through a French filtration system, and finally desalination in a Hitachi machine before being returned to cool the reactors. No need to add more water and the contaminated water gets cleaned, two birds with one stone. It just needs to get going.

In my last post I said there was little debate here on the nuclear issue. What a difference a week makes! The Trade and Industry Minister's request last week for those reactors closed for routine repairs to reopen as soon as possible fell on deaf ears.  Local governors have basically told him that if he thinks Japan's reactors can reopen with the same safety standards, with the same organisational structures as before, he must be joking. The new buzzword is datsu genpatsu  脱原発 -stop nuclear power.

My current hero is one Mr Kanno, head of Iitate-mura, whose 6,000 inhabitants' planned evacuation was completed yesterday. The village is 40 kms from Fukushima Daiichi but was caught in that northeast fan-like area of fallout which was made public long after the disaster. He's managed to get work for 1,000 of the inhabitants doing security patrols and monitoring radiation levels and he stuck out to prevent the evacuation of 120 old people in a home which is in an area with a relatively low level of radiation (0.8) arguing that they would be more at risk if they were moved. He's also announced his vision for returning to the village in 2 years time and listed the things he's going to do until then. He admits himself that 2 years is an arbitrary length of time but he knows that people need some kind of vision, something to work towards, something to keep them going. This is what our central government should be doing. We have Tokyo Electric's schedule which still aims to have cold shutdown by mid-January but nothing from the government.

Prime Minister Kan won his confrontation with ex-PM Hatoyama by promising to retire 'when things are under control' (medo ga tsuitara  めどが付いたら)making Hatoyama look foolish but Kan continues to speak in riddles so that no one, not even those closest to him, know when he is going to step down. Silly games. So out of touch.

One television commentator on Sunday was spot on when he said Japanese politics is in 'meltdown' and all we want is an end to it (shusoku 収束). This is the word used about putting an end to the accident at Fukushima so a nice play on words.

Good night from a hot and sticky Koriyama.

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